Helena fights back from slow start but falls to Sidney Lanier in Sweet 16

Published 5:49 pm Friday, February 15, 2019

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

MONTGOMERY – After falling behind big early, Helena was unable to complete what would’ve been an unbelievable comeback as the Huskies fell to Sidney Lanier 54-37 in the regional semifinals of the Class 6A boys basketball state tournament at Garrett Coliseum on Friday, Feb. 15.

When the Huskies tangled with Sidney Lanier in the Sweet 16, there was a point late in the third quarter where Helena cut the once large lead the Poets had down to just four points, and fans clad in light blue sensed the possibility of a late comeback.

Unfortunately, the first and fourth quarters didn’t go Helena’s way as the Huskies’ season came to an end in the Sweet 16 for the second straight season.

To begin the game, it seemed as though Sidney Lanier was on its way to an easy victory, as the Poets outscored Helena 19-3 in the first quarter.

The Huskies shot 1-of-8 from the field with the lone basket coming from a Daunte Cave lay up following a steal.

Despite the rough first quarter, Helena did what they’ve done the entire the season; they kept fighting and never quit.

Nate Andrews opened the second quarter with a deep two to get Helena going which was followed by 10 straight points by Cave as the Huskies outscored Sidney Lanier 13-2 to cut the deficit to 21-16 at halftime.

Helena locked down on the defensive end of the floor holding the Poets to just 1-of-12 shooting in the second quarter.

Sidney Lanier’s Terence Mickles opened the third quarter with a made 3-pointer from the corner to extend the Poets lead to 24-16. Mickles finished in double figures with 10 points in the game.

The Poets committed several fouls in the third quarter as Helena was already in the bonus with several minutes remaining in the period.

Cave knocked down a pair of free throws with under a minute to play in the third quarter to cut Sidney Lanier’s lead to 29-25.

The Poets made one free throw to end the third quarter but the lead was just five, 30-25.

The fourth quarter belonged to Sidney Lanier, however, as the Poets were led by Antwan Burnett. He finished as the game’s top scorer with 25 points and was a problem all game for Helena.

Burnett began the fourth quarter with an and-1 lay up to push the lead to 33-25.

Seconds later, Burnett stole a pass from Helena and jammed it at the other end to extend the lead to double digits.

Helena was then forced to call a timeout with 5:27 to go in the game after committing another turnover that led to a fast break lay up to put the Poets up 37-25.

Trailing by double digits again, Helena still fought hard led by senior Andrews who scored 16 points in his final game in a Husky uniform.

Trailing 37-25, Andrews hit back-to-back 3-pointers that would cut the deficit to eight with three minutes to play but Burnett and the Poets were too much for Helena in the end, outscoring the Huskies 24-12 in the fourth quarter for the 17-point win.

Sidney Lanier outscored Helena 30-8 in the paint and led the points off turnovers category 27-10.

Despite being disappointed by the outcome, Helena first year head coach Billy Grant was proud with the season his team had after losing key pieces from the roster a season ago.

“Of course, it’s big to be able to get to this point and of course you want to win,” Grant said. “It’s just a big accomplishment for these guys because they had lost six key guys from last year’s team. These guys fought, and we didn’t have a lot of depth, but we just wore down and we had guys we can’t sub for. It gets to the fourth quarter where a team like those guys are playing 10 or 12 guys and we can’t even sub ours so it’s just tough, but they hung in there and didn’t quit. They fought until the end, and I’m just proud of them and can’t ask any more of them.”

Helena finished the season with an overall record of 20-10.